It was a dull night all around in Tampa on Wednesday. Don’t let the final scoreline fool you, this was not an exciting match to watch nor a good performance from the red, white and blue. Arena made 8 changes to the line up which also led to a formation change. It didn’t make a bit of difference in the first half as we appeared even less inspired than we were at the weekend. Coming out of half we looked a bit better and got a lucky goal followed by a bit of actual team play to build a two goal advantage. The much changed defense suddenly folded like a wet newspaper and we appeared headed to an embarrassing draw or even defeat. Thankfully Morris found some of his 2016 magic and managed to nab his second of the night which proved to be just enough to get the result and put the US in first heading into the final group stage game. As much as I hate saying it changes will be needed for Saturday because another performance like this and we could face the real possibility of finishing off the top spot.
Opportunities missed – kind of sums up the whole performance from an individual perspective on the US roster. It continued last night. 8 new players were given a starting opportunity and few really took advantage. Morris was probably the only one to really seize the chance. Lichaj didn’t show that much. Morrow didn’t bring anything. Agudelo, Arriola, Zardes, and Roldan were all hit and miss. And Hedges hurt more than helped.
Inconsistent lineup – I may sound like a broken record but yet again Arena made massive changes. I know it was a short turnaround from Nashville. I know this is an experimental roster and he wants to see different players. But time and time again Klinsmann was lambasted for this and Arena shouldn’t get a pass. Consistency breeds success which was clearly demonstrated time and again under Klinsmann. His most successful runs (summer 2013, Copa 2016) all came with relatively unchanged lineups from game to game. Arena needs to lock in who is going to win this tournament and let them gel. Right now it looks like a group of players unsure of what to do which was the hallmark of the Klinsmann regime. I thought we had moved past that with Arena but apparently not.
I don’t even know what to say at this point – it was such a bland performance. And a second in a row to boot. The US needs to find some spark to actually kick into gear and win this tournament. It’s clearly there for the taking. No team has looked dominant yet. I hope we get a full 6 roster changes after the group stage because the current set looks unconvincing to say the least.
Ratings (1-10 scale):
Guzan: 5 – Made a couple of big saves. Looked like he was going to build on his performance from Nashville. Instead he showed why he’s fallen out of favor in the EPL. Has to save that first goal.
Morrow: 5 – Didn’t make an impression one way or the other. Never really did anything in attack. Doesn’t look like Villafana has anything to worry about from him. (Though I would like to see him play as a winger in a 5 man midfield similar to his role in Toronto).
Hedges: 2 – The night couldn’t have gone much worse. Had he scored an own goal that really would’ve been the topper. Got beaten for pace time and time again. Didn’t foul to stop the break that led to the second goal. Wasn’t commanding in the air on either end of the pitch for set pieces. A completely useless performance and one I hope we never see again.
Gonzalez: 6 – Was such a contrast to his center back partner. Not particularly dominant but solid enough. Got a fortuitous goal. Dealt with some fires in the back. Probably could’ve done a bit more on both Martinique goals. And though Stu was quick to jump on Lichaj for a poor touch that led to a Martinique chance in the first half I blame Gonzalez more as he put Lichaj in an awful spot with a bullet pass when it was clear Lichaj wasn’t a good option. I don’t think he hurt or helped his stock much.
Lichaj: 6 – It was a disappointing performance for me because I really wanted to see more from the Nottingham Forest player of the year. It wasn’t that he did anything particularly poor. And he had a fantastic run and cross for Morris’ first goal. But he didn’t do anything to stand out. Hopefully he’ll get another chance to impress.
Zardes: 5 – His touch was about as good as Marshawn Lynch’s from the charity game he played the other day. Did not show me why (outside of nepotism) that he’s in this camp. He made a good run and cross for Morris’ second. And he was pushing down the left in the first half. But he rarely created anything from it. All night I just wanted something more from our wings and he wasn’t providing much.
Roldan: 5 – I forgot he was on the pitch for large stretches of the match. He started off somewhat brightly. Got a shot off. But then went into a shell. Wasn’t as bad as Acosta and McCarty were at the weekend. But did nothing to help himself moving forward.
Acosta: 5 – Had his moments both good and bad. He had some good crosses off set pieces particularly early. He unfortunately couldn’t keep up the quality and he faded as the match went on. I was glad to see Bedoya come on for him.
Arriola: 6 – I was more pleased with the Tijuana man than any of the other starting mids. He showed some industry and tenaciousness that I felt the others were all missing. He put the ball back in that Gonzalez eventually tapped in for the opener. Wasn’t outstanding by any means and showed some naivety on the defensive end but if he cleans that aspect up he could carve out a role on this team.
Agudelo: 6 – I was pleased overall with his performance. He looked for goal and really looked interested in playing which was not the case for the majority of the squad. He dropped deep to get involved early which you can do when you’ve got a strike partner up top. His passing and decision making was just a bit off and he never got an end product otherwise this would be higher. I’d like to see him continue to get chances maybe behind Dwyer and Morris?
Morris: 7- Clearly saved our bacon on the night. After Gonzalez somehow gave us the lead a switch was flipped for Morris and he suddenly became interested in scoring. There was a fire in the Sounders product that has been missing all calendar year in MLS and on the international stage. It was a brilliant run to get in front of the keeper and redirect Lichaj’s cross. Then when it looked like we had given up and would have to settle for a draw he picked up the ball, found Zardes, and made a run to the top of the 18 before roofing Zardes’ cross into the top of the net for the winner. Outside of his goals he really contributed little and that needs to change if he wants to stay in the squad but on the night the 2 goals were critical.
Bedoya: 6 – He was exactly the sub I wanted to see. I was half hoping he’d get a chance to start the game in the middle but the break seemed to do the Union man some good. Came on and put in a tidy shift. He played a fantastic ball through to Lichaj that led to Morris’ first. It was the kind of vision that we had been lacking all night. Maybe he’ll get another chance to sit centrally Saturday against Nicaragua.
Pontius: 5 – Came on and somewhat solidified the wing. He didn’t get many opportunities to show off but didn’t really do anything poorly which is a plus.
McCarty: 5 – Was a shut it down move from Arena and he dutifully locked up shop. The brief glimpse was better than his performance in Nashville but the sample size isn’t the same.
Arena: 4 – We got the win so he gets credit for that. Otherwise he gets nothing. Too many changes. Didn’t learn anything. Subs weren’t terrible but not great. He needs to change something up to get a response from this team for the Nicaragua match.
Since Arena has shown zero consistency in his squad choices I have no clue what’s coming Saturday. Luckily we will know exactly what we need to do to finish top of the group which could be a big positive. Hopefully we can actually score a multi-goal victory and carry some semblance of confidence into the knockout rounds.